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Tourism matters, so Las Vegas must keep innovating

Tourism matters.

I grew up in Las Vegas and have been working at the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority for 41 years, so I personally know how true those two simple words are. At some level, we all know tourism is important. But, as we mark National Travel and Tourism Week, why does tourism matter in your daily life, and what are we doing at the authority to make sure it continues to matter in a big way?

Did you take a child to school today? Chances are they spent the day in a classroom that was paid for with hotel room taxes. The teacher in that classroom also benefited because visitor-funded room taxes also help pay for teacher salaries.

If your tires were rolling on the Las Vegas Beltway or Interstate 15 today, you drove on a road paid for by tourists because room taxes pay for road construction and improvements across the valley.

If you spent the afternoon in a local park, tourism supported your enjoyment of the open space because the room tax covers the construction and maintenance of local parks.

You see, tourism is much more than people coming to our wonderful city, having a good time and heading home. It is about bringing money into Las Vegas from other places that pay for things we residents use and enjoy every day.

Tourism also means jobs. One out of two jobs in Southern Nevada exists because of our tourism industry. If you own a business, most likely a lot of your customers work in the tourism industry, and they spend their money at your business.

Tourism matters. Without our visitors, our way of life and our entire community would be drastically different. It’s critical that we ensure Las Vegas remains the greatest tourist and business destination in the world.

When the Southern Nevada economy was hit hard by the recession, it was the increase in the number of tourists and trade shows that kept money coming into our community. Our conventions in particular emerged as the great stabilizer in our local economy. Without them, things would have been a lot worse.

Today, can you feel things getting better? If it feels like things are moving again, it is because they are. We expect to welcome a record-breaking 40 million visitors this year, and new major construction projects are once again underway, creating jobs and offering new things for our visitors to enjoy.

Our competitors are always looking for ways to knock us off our perch as the top convention destination. Chicago, Orlando, San Francisco, San Diego and other cities are investing billions of dollars in their convention facilities to try to take business from Las Vegas. We need to make sure we stay ahead of the competition.

At the LVCVA, our next big vision is the Las Vegas Global Business District. It will push us years ahead of competing cities, allowing us to continue to attract major conventions, events and tourists. The project is an expansion and reinvention of the Las Vegas Convention Center to grow capacity for existing shows and to give us room to bring new, big trade shows to Las Vegas.

It includes an international trade center building to provide major corporations with the facilities and support to conduct business right here in Las Vegas. And, in one of the most exciting aspects for residents, it includes the development of a transportation hub to centralize multiple modes of transportation — cars, buses, taxis, the Las Vegas Monorail and light rail to improve travel within our city.

The bottom line is more visitors means more room tax revenues, more spending and more money to local employees, who in turn will spend it at businesses throughout our valley. For you, it means that school you dropped your child off at, that road you drove on and that park you visited with your family will benefit.

As we celebrate National Travel and Tourism Week, take a moment to consider how tourism matters to you.

Rossi Ralenkotter is president and chief executive officer of the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

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